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OT - How Much Should a Workplace Accommodate Pregnancy?

sunshinex's picture

So I've been at my workplace for about 5 years. I'm their longest employee. I work for a small but very successful business. (Small in terms of employees - large in terms of clients). They tend to be understaffed, which I've always been okay with because the pay is good and advancement has been great. I manage a lot of client accounts (about 30) and am basically the go-to person for all of these companies and their marketing needs. Before I got pregnant, I could easily work 50-60 hours a week to make sure things got done, but even then, it's always been fairly overwhelming to say the least.

For my particular position, they've had a lot of trouble finding someone else to do the job properly, which is why i ended up managing so many client accounts. I've always been okay with being overworked simply because I love what I do and I care about those I work for, but at this point in pregnancy, I'm exhausted and getting fed up pretty fast. I feel as though the previous extra time that my workload required just isn't possible anymore with fatigue/sickness. I've mentioned it a couple of times to my boss, only to be met with "i'm not sure who we could get to help you or what they could do, you just need to work through it"

While I hate being the complainer and I definitely don't want to come off as someone who's milking pregnancy, I really feel it's in the best interest of the clients I work with to have someone help make sure projects stay on track. I have always been more than dedicated to the company and it's honestly embarressing asking for help when i've been the one people go-to for help throughout my entire employment, but I just don't know what to do anymore. I could easily have a more serious conversation, but I guess I'm starting to wonder if that's okay or not? When I've mentioned it, it's always been pretty casual, but now i'm considering having a sit down meeting.

Do you think this would come off badly? Is it something you would or have done before? I'm concerned about the present situation and maternity leave. Currently, I've noticed they are putting MORE responsibilities on me instead of less, despite my workload already being pretty overwhelming. They don't seem to have any plans for when I'm gone, and I got a call a couple of days ago asking how long i plan on leaving for mat leave and when I said they should plan on me taking the full leave just in case (equals out to 52 weeks in canada) I was met with confusion and questions about whether I actually need that long.

I guess I'm just kind of frustrated and would like others outlook on the situation. Should I have a serious sit down meeting about this? Or should I just keep working away and focus on getting something setup during mat leave? Or should I not even worry about what they do while I'm away because they haven't been very accomodating?

Like I said, I care about the clients a lot. I love what I do. I don't want my reputation damaged in the midst of all this.

Rags's picture

First... congratulations on the little one.

As a director level exec I would recommend that you have a sit down with your leadership. Prepare by having a solution in hand to present as far as the help you need and who you will need to provide that help. Not necessarily by name but certainly by skillset. If you have a current coworker you can recommend then do it. If not I would suggest having the resume of a couple of qualified candidates who can support you until you go out on ML and fill in while you are off. Don't wait. Have the talk as soon as you are ready and make it sooner rather than later.

By all means take as much of your ML as you want and need. While 52 weeks is a long time in the world of company operations if that is what you are eligible to take... take it.

Again.... have a plan ready to review regarding your ML when you have your sit down.

You can include in your plan a number of hours you will be available for consultation and the contact information for how the company can get hold of you. Make sure to be clear that you will be focusing on your new baby and your family during your ML period but will be willing to help on a limited ad hoc basis if your participation is critical.

I also suggest that you keep your client networking activity active while you are out on ML. Make sure not to drop off of the RADAR screen for a year with no contact.

An effective way to address this IMHO is like any other work issue. Make a plan to deliver a solution, execute the plan. By addressing this with your usual focus on effective performance you will significantly reduce any risk to your reputation and future opportunities.

Take care of you and don't over do it. If your body is telling you to slow down.... slow down. Not that I have a clue what being pregnant is like but .... it makes sense to my Engineeric (my XW's made up word for how the Rags clan engineers think) male brain.

BethAnne's picture

Can you help your boss out and find one or two people to help cover the work and transition them over to cover you when you are away? I presume Canada has pretty good laws so that you can't be fired for asking for reasonable accommodations and your job will still be there when you get back.

Come up with an action plan to help cover the work now and how to cover your maternity leave and present it to your boss and ask them if that seems reasonable or if they have any other suggestions. If no one else at your firm has taken maternity leave recently then they may just not be really thinking this through or practiced at setting it up and some help along the way by you might be good and ensure you can do your best to keep the clients happy as well as keep you and the baby healthy and sane.

secondplace's picture

Yes, I remember that story. As sympathetic as I was to you, the story was very entertaining! I couldn't believe the level of entitlement!

Acratopotes's picture

Why not simply say NO to more work?

They are use to you being a softy, never stand up for yourself... you will have to get them to get use to the new YOU...
The one saying, sorry I can not take on more work, I have my work and there's really no time for more....

Then according tot law - you take your maternity leave, do not feel guilty about it, do not stress over it, do not worry about who's going to do the work, it's not your business you are only an employee there

moeilijk's picture

With smaller companies it's always more difficult to negotiate through this kind of thing. In my experience, the higher-ups are Jacks-of-all-trades, and tend to not be all that well-informed about accommodation, mat leave, etc.

I'd first make a plan of what I would like to see happen so that I could be out on leave and come back with peace of mind.

Maybe - reducing hours to 40/week until you go on leave, a transition plan for before you go on leave and for when you come back. Skillset/main issues that your replacement will need to have/be able to address.

I'm assuming you're salaried, so there's not a huge expectation that you work x hours per week, just that the job gets done. That being said, it's recognized that your workload is too high.... but since you've been doing it, you've been enabling upper management to exploit you. Oh well... common story!

First, I'd start saying, "No," or offloading responsibilities casually. That can backfire though... I was in a job where they had started to look for a person to take over 1/3 of my workload but then there was a sudden hiring freeze. Yet when I started to say, "No," there was a big issue and management seemed surprised and angry and accused me of being unprofessional. (They didn't want the responsibility of deciding what wouldn't get done either, I understood that... but I wasn't management and my employee-contract included a statement that if I wasn't sure I needed to ask.... So my 'rep' was affected, unfairly ofc, but still affected.)

So I'd only be informal about it for a couple of weeks - if you get the sense that it isn't going smoothly, get it on paper that you're asking to be accommodated for your medical 'condition' of being pregnant and want to only work 40 hours/week which means that xyz cannot be your responsibility any longer. It's probably best to be able to offer them a block of work that needs to find a home, rather than a vague hour-allotment, IYKWIM.

Then when you're a bit closer to the time that you're expecting to train someone, again ask to meet to discuss transition plans. It might be that you have to write everything down, maybe they want you to do the first round of recruiting, or maybe just the training... but be prepared that nothing will be done by anyone except you, so write down the major points any replacement will need anyway.

I'd tell them that you are anticipating taking your full 52 weeks of leave but that you will be sure to let them know within the time limits if there are any changes. And things can change - a friend called her boss at 3 months to say, "I'll be back asap!" She hated the parenting gig, lol, but she was also new to her area. It's nice if you scope out activities already. I know in ON they have tons of Early Years centres with regular activities, and if you're lucky, you'll click with another parent.

sunshinex's picture

This is really great. I'm definitely going to start trying to informal approach a bit more and if it doesn't go over as I need it to, I'll schedule a meeting and put it on paper. My main goal is to let them know exactly which responsibilities are outside of my normal working hours and thus, not getting done now that i'm pregnant and simply exhausted once 5pm hits. Part of my job is having an hour meeting per week with each of the clients I work with, so that alone takes 30 hours out of the week than I've got a heavy workload on top of that - actioning everything that comes out of each meeting for each client. It's just not possible anymore and I care about the clients too much to keep letting things slip up because I can't work after 5pm as often.

Thanks for the advice! And I am defintiely letting them know to PLAN for 52 weeks but it's entirely possible i'll be crazy after 3 months and want to come back lol.

moeilijk's picture

You know, some parents come back earlier and then change their minds - end up back on leave for another month or two. Totally normal. It's even addressed specifically:

Quoted below:

If the biological mother wants to return to work after her maternity leave, the other parent can then take the 35 weeks of parental benefits.
If one parent decides to take only 10 weeks of parental leave before returning to work, the other parent can use the remaining 25 weeks of benefits.
If one parent decides to return to work after taking a few weeks of parental leave, but then realizes a few weeks later that he or she would prefer to stay home with the child, he or she is still entitled to the unused weeks of parental benefits, as long as the 52-week period after the birth or adoption placement has not expired.

moeilijk's picture

Sounds like you've already identified that you need to drop 1/3 your workload atm. From 60 hours down to 40, and if you can quantify it by clients, even better - you can clearly say, "Clients 1-20 I'll keep, but clients 21-30 need 1 hour meetings and follow-up." If someone else takes the meetings, then you've already dropped 10 hours/week from your commitments.

I get it, really I do. I used to work for a major investment firm and one of the super-high CEO's was a woman who, when I worked there, was pregnant with and had her 5th kid. Ofc her partner was a SAHD and she just did her best to be home for dinner, like any CEO, but she was back at work at 17 weeks (she came by regularly before then, but more to network than to work). It's a sacrifice whatever you choose, but since you're invested in your career AND want to have a family, then something's gotta give. Setting limits now can only serve you well in all areas of your life.

secondplace's picture

Hi Sunshinex,

Yes, I think you should have a sit down meeting about this. I'm sure you're not going to want to work 50 to 60 hours per week when you return from maternity leave either, so you should nip this in the bud now.

Given the fact that they have to hold your job (or a similar position) for you and that they can't discriminate against a pregnant woman, now would be a great time to have a meeting with them.

sunshinex's picture

Well they best learn to because they're gonna need me back after lol

Just curious why do you feel they shouldn't accomodate? I'm not saying change up my whole job description but understand that i can no longer work 50-60 hours a week (which i've NEVER been paid overtime for anyway)

sunshinex's picture

I am a salaried employee, but am going above and beyond filling my job description. Example: someone in an entirely different department recently left so management decided to add her job description to mine.. so now I'm doing her workload on-top of the one I have. Example 2: another person who was managing client accounts was fired for being unable to do the job, so they gave half of those accounts to me and the other half were let go because there was no one else to take them. It's not that i'm asking for a reduced work schedule, moreso I'm asking to have the work schedule I should've had to begin with because I just don't have the energy to do the 10-12 hour days I used to do.

moeilijk's picture

In Canada employers must accommodate pregnancy if the pregnant woman requires accommodation. You're entitled to disagree with the values underlying Canadian law in this area ofc. But at some point, things are what they are. You can, for example, object to driving on the left... but if you're driving in England it would be wise to make sure you understand and follow the law.

secret's picture

The "recommended" way to proceed is to lift about 25% less than you were, pre-pregnancy, simply because of the risk that heavy lifting can cause premature labor, low birth weight...

Apparently you can tear a ligament or something, which can trigger a miscarriage... but that's mostly myth.

Rags's picture

Maternity leave is a fact. It is not something that can be believed in or not. At least in my opinion that is the case.

I for one do not support the concept of FMLA. Our economy should be fully committed to at will employment. Maternity or family leave should come from accrued vacation or sick time.

Employers do not exist to provide jobs. Employment is a side effect of organizational operations.

Just my opinion of course.

sunshinex's picture

I fully accept how much of an inconvenience my maternity leave will be... But I also accepted all sorts of inconveniences throughout the past 5 years of employment. I have worked overtime til midnight many times because someone else screwed up, took a sick day, whatever. I've worked overtime til midnight because my boss was on vacation and I needed to fulfill some of his duties plus my own. I've been more than accomodating to the company, and in the grand scheme of things, I feel a valued employee should be given some accomodation in exchange for all of THEIR sacrifice.

sunshinex's picture

Salaried employees are not automatically exempt from overtime pay where I'm located.

We have except and non-exempt employees. If you are salaried but non-exempt, that means you are still to be paid overtime. This is designed to STOP employers from demanding 60+ hours a week from someone who technically gets paid for 40 hours...

sunshinex's picture

Must be different in Ontario. No employer could get away with paying someone $30,000 a year with no overtime in any scenario. Exempt/non-exempt is figured out not by income level but by job responsibilities. You pretty much have to spend more than 50% of your time performing management duties to be exempt from overtime and it's pretty strict on what "management duties" includes - meaning simply leading a team isn't enough. You have to spend more than 50% of your time hiring, training, etc.

sunshinex's picture

They don't sound very fair lol

Seriously though I hear about laws in other places and it seems really crappy. I'm glad I live in Canada where employers are expected to treat employees like humans, not cattle or something.

moeilijk's picture

Pretty sure if you had received a year of reduced-earnings protected leave, you'd think that was perfectly fair too. Seems bizarrely self-indulgent to think that your own personal experience should be prescriptive to any other individual... never mind other countries' social values.

But hey, live and let live. (That's one of my values, usually.)

sunshinex's picture


I actually think it's ridiculous that where I am, they cap it at 55% of your earnings UP TO around $50,000 a year... IMO its not very fair that if I earn significantly MORE than $50,000, I still only get 55% of that number... especially considering because I earn more, I pay more tax and therefore likely pay more into EI anyways. I should get 55% of my salary, not a salary they determine is the cap amount.

sunshinex's picture

YES that is what i've found happening. I am literally at a crossroads where nobody knows how to do my job and because i've done much MORE than my job, nobody could fill my role anyways. I know my boss would be pissed about having to fill my role because it'd take 2 or 3 people and he simply wouldn't want that. That's kind of what ends up happening when he tries to hire for my position. He gets mad that the person can't do everything I do and fires them.

I absolutely did do this to myself, and at the time, it seemed worth it lol the raises and bonuses were great. But I'm at a point where no amount of money could make it worth dealing with this while pregnant. My maternal side has kicked in and I no longer care about getting a bonus big enough to buy louboutin shoes hahaha

Rags's picture

Though I am not personally supportive of FMLA I am fully supportive of an employee taking the full extent of all of the their benefits and that includes ML/FMLA. I make sure I support my employee's in the use of their benefits.

The word "sacrifice" is not one I relate to employment. Employment is a choice by both the employee and the employer. Employers pay a wage/salary for the services of employees. Most quality employers clearly understand that their employees are their greatest resource and demonstrate the value and esteem they hold their employees in accordingly. You nor anyone else should feel bad for taking full advantage of your benefits whether those are legally mandate or perquisites of working where you work.

ESMOD's picture

I would think since you plan on taking a rather long maternity leave that they use the time available to ease transition of your workload to other team members.

For that reason, I think giving them a heads up on the length and timing of your leave and the hole in their resources it will leave would be a good idea.

sunshinex's picture

I would agree. Funny thing is they've known since I was 6 weeks pregnant so they've had tons of time to come up with a plan. They have also known that I was planning, or at least, should have known given that I had a miscarriage end of last year and took some time off because of it.

moeilijk's picture

Actually, ESMOD, it is unusual to return in less than a year. The only reason for 'surprise' from management is because she is valuable and higher up in the firm herself.

In Canada your job is there when you come back, with leave and vacation it is often closer to 13-14 months away, and your income goes down to... up to 55% of $50K/year if that's what you made before. But you can share the 35 weeks of available leave with your partner. Often families save a bit to soften the blow of reduced income, but ofc being home and not going into work costs are reduced usually. And so the lower-income spouse usually takes more time off. Or some families take the time together - like both spouses home for 15 weeks. Lots of options.

ESMOD's picture

That's pretty good leave:) I think my OSD was able to take 3 months off and her husband took a week Dirol

secret's picture

they get to take it too, but the time is still shared. Every week dad takes off, mom cannot.

52 weeks total (74 in some parts of Canada)

if dad takes 2 weeks, mom can only take 50
if dad takes 10 weeks, mom can only take 42
if dad takes 15 weeks, mom can only take 37

ETA - sorry - they can take the time off.... but they only get the weekly 55% of your income benefit from the government for a maximum of 52 weeks, and split by week to the parent taking it.

sunshinex's picture

Oh it's definitely not a case of not doing my job. Many clients have told my boss that they enjoy working with me moreso than they enjoyed working with him in the past lol. I know they're very happy with me. But this is a very important point... I definitely need to keep all evidence of attempting to resolve the matter/coming up with a solution on record. Thanks!!

secret's picture

I didn't read all the comments, so I'm not sure if someone has already mentioned succession planning?

sunshinex's picture

Oh I absolutely know the company itself isn't a great place, it's the clients I care about. Many of my clients I meet with on a quarterly basis and truly have enjoyed getting to know. I find nothing better than having a client tell me they've just got a huge deal that will result in major revenue for them because of a marketing effort I did! I love what I do, not necessarily the company I work for Smile I'm very passionate about my work though. That's what's kept me willing to work ridiculous hours, because I do find it rewarding.

The reason nobody else can do the job I do is because when someone is hired who seems promising, my boss's demanding and rude way of being scares them off and they leave. If they're not promising, they get fired fast because again, my boss isn't very reasonable and doesn't provide much training. He's not an easy person to work for to say the least. I can attribute, easily, $40,000 revenue MONTHLY that the company takes in from the client accounts I manage alone. So they are definitely profiting HUGELY from overworking me, lol.

I just spoke with them again today about making accomodations. I was at an ultrasound this morning (they knew i'd be there, they've known for a while that it was booked today) and I still continued to get demanding emails from my boss asking where this and that were... so once I got back in the office, I told him I really needed to be better accomodated... I can't be bothered when I'm taking 3 hours off for an ultrasound. Things can wait until I'm back in the office.

I then told him that since there's been no movement in finding someone to replace me during maternity leave, I will begin to look for someone myself. That person will be hired in the meantime to take a load off me, and I can train them in the next few months so they're better prepared. I just kind of made it seem like it's for his benefit, when in reality, it's for mine and the clients i manage lol. Hopefully things look up from here.

LochnessStepMonster's picture

Most US Americans have horrible views on pregnancy, especially US American women. So take any of our advice with a rock pf salt. Most US Americans just have horrible opinions on humanity in general but that's us.

Remember, we are a country of people that will break a leg and still have to have a doctors nonot for needing more than 3 days to heal.

If i were you i would find out what my rights were and get an attorney if needed. No one can tell you how much time you need to heal. If other people want to get deathly sick and still come to work that is their business and they can't force that on you. Let them die early from not taking care of themselves.

Being pregnant and having children is no the new idea that people make it out to be. That's how we all got here.